How to Engage with a New Patient at Your Orthodontic Practice

When a new patient walks into your office and you notice them engaging with your staff, what is the first thing that goes through your mind?

Is it a warm welcome and a sincere desire to be helpful?

Perhaps there is also a flash of anxiety: you and your clinic are coming under scrutiny, will you pass muster?

Will you be able to meet their expectations and deliver what they came in for?

Will this person turn out to be a much-needed client, or are they just kicking the tires so to speak?

Just like in other medical fields, walk-ins are a part of any orthodontic practice (albeit a small part, depending on your circumstances).

Whether you can convert someone coming in for an exploratory visit into a devoted future patient has a lot to do with first impressions and how you engage with the new person.

Here are some general rules that, if consistently followed, will show your new patients how attentive, professional and thorough you are as a practitioner – three qualities that most new patients are looking for when it comes to their orthodontist.

  1. Develop a strong online presence with a professional, interactive website and highly engaging, valuable content that ignites action. This will ensure a steady stream of new patients who make appointments to come in and see if the bricks-and-mortar reality matches their favourable online impression of you.
  2. Actively encourage walk-ins, perhaps with friendly signage. Advertise the fact that you are currently welcoming new patients to your practice. Depending on your location, many people are walking or driving past your clinic every day, but may think that you don’t have space to see new patients; this impression is common because of long wait times to see specialist practitioners in other medical fields.
  3. Make sure your front of house staff makes new patients a priority. It is shocking how many reception and administrative staff, both at orthodontic practices and other types of clinics, do not follow the proper chain of communication: People first, telephone second, email third. If someone walks in, especially a new patient, staff should make it a priority to make eye contact and greet them immediately before wrapping up phone calls (and certainly before finishing administrative tasks).
  4. Don’t rely on modern technology to do the job. While your waiting room can and should be a comfortable, inviting space, your décor and layout should be optimized, and your equipment should be cutting edge, these are ultimately expected by today’s discerning patients. They are no substitute for making a new patient feel valued. Well-trained employees will smile and make new patients feel like part of the family, no matter what type of procedure or consultation they have come in for. This can include giving them a tour of the clinic’s different amenities, offering brochures about your practice’s philosophy, explaining payment plans, and showing them personalized before-and-after pictures relevant to the procedure they are interested in.
  5. Ultimately, you are the ambassador of your brand! The consultation is still the most crucial part of any new patient’s visit; after all, you are the practitioner who will be restoring the patient’s smile. Listen to them thoughtfully and address their concerns. Encourage them to ask questions and clarify any concerns.

Now, welcome the new patient into the fold and enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship that lasts a lifetime!

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